Origins of magic

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Origins of Magic is an example setting for Gempunks.

Origins of magic map.jpg

A few decades ago it was discovered that implanting gems harvested from terrifying creatures could allow people to cast spells or power specially designed items. The discoverers were not particularly eager to give up their knowledge, and while the essential gem power is now easy enough to uncover for those who have time or money to investigate, the natures of particular spells or items are often jealously guarded secrets.

Spells and Magic Items

Since magic is so recent, advanced spell theory has not yet been developed, making it difficult to learn more spells by gaining levels in classes like apprentice. You cannot learn a spell using a class if you have never watched that spell being cast before. It takes a DC 15 Items check to craft a magic item if you have not closely examined a specimen of that item, and failure means that you cannot try to craft that item again until you have examined such a specimen.

Psychics

Psychics, on the other hand, have been around for a while, occurring sporadically especially in areas with large populations of gem-bearing creatures. Most of the manifestations of the bloodlines have a very sensitive genetic component, so the children and grandchildren of psychics are seldom psychics themselves and psychic powers seem to appear randomly.

Civilizations

Desert Tribes of the East

Desert Tribes.jpg

Population is heavily concentrated around its two major rivers, lake, and ocean.

The exotic equatorial deserts and oases of the east are populated by various tribes, some of them most civilized indeed. The most powerful of the human tribes ascribes to the philosophy of "Necrotic Animism": they believe that the essence of peoples' beings continues to reside in their bodies after death. Sultans and wealthy merchants among them pay necromancers to have their bodies puppeted about, exposed to things they never got to experience in life. The less well-to-do simply have anesthetic and preservatives soaked into their bodies before burial.

Word of research into the nature of the soul and how it leaves the body after death has reached these people, who variously dismiss it as either lies, blasphemous lies, or merely an observation about some less important element of a person's psyche than their Essence.

Somewhat further from the major water supplies, there are many roaming orcish bands, hunting those few animals that travel through the area. While their nomadic nature keeps them from using or developing technologies like architecture or blacksmithing, they have the benefit of meeting people (mostly orcs) from various foreign lands, and are generally well-supplied with songs and stories, as well as spells and gems from a variety of colors.

Even further to the east, beyond the dunes of the desert tribes there is an agrarian orcish society. Strict population controls and a harsh stance on immigration have allowed them to maintain a population small enough to support their mobbing behavior without needing to travel far. Their mobs are excellent opportunities for the free exchange of information, so even the lowliest farmer is more educated than some nobles among human lands.

Forest Hunters of the Northeast

Forest Hunters.jpg

Fireweasels and belligs stalk the mountainous forests, living on the delicious beasts within. Since most other races are delicious to one or the other of these two savage, cunning species, few dare to enter the forests. Tensions with their neighbours are tense, so belligs and fireweasels that leave in search of adventure tend to prefer to travel past the nearby lands in favor of places where they have less of a reputation.

The Warring City-States

Warring City-States.jpg

To the west of the Forest Hunters there is a large lush land of fertile valleys and dense forests, perfectly suited for human and swarm habitation. Before the discovery of magic, there was a stable and harmonious empire spanning the valley, but malcontents got their hands on magic before the forces of the empire did, and it collapsed shortly thereafter. Now it is a land of constant warfare between too many sides to count, made only more violent by the region's populous nature.

The Jungle Republic of the Chosen Ones

Jungle Republic.jpg

A bit to the southeast of the desert tribes is a vast jungle, ruled by the powerful and terrifying Divine Republic of blue angels. The people of this empire believe that divine inspiration lives in all of us, and only through decisions made in aggregate can they manage to decipher the true heavenly will. Their leaders are selected by a progressive series of voting processes: every twelve years, each town and village selects a new leader from any individual among their people — to ensure that the divine will is in each voter, each voter must perform a ritual in which they eat part of the heart of an intelligent being; for practical reasons, usually all the members of the town are gathered together so that they can perform the ritual simultaneously. Nine years after being elected, the leaders of the various towns and villages proceed to the capital in order to use the same process to select one of their number to be the next Divine Word, prime leader of the Republic. By tradition, the intelligent being used to provide a heart for that election is usually the previous Divine Word.

The Fleshlands

Fleshlands with Miner.jpg

As one goes south of the jungle, the lush trees give way to the huge columns of toxic forests where gholums are most likely to appear, which themselves give way to the fleshlands where the majority of the arthropi make their homes, living off the tough meat of the land. The vast tunnel networks of the arthropi flesh-miners are divided into several warring clans, in constant conflict over the most tender lodes.

The Wish-Utopia

Wish-Utopia.jpg

This series of large islands off the coast is populated by people who believe that the best thing in life is to enjoy one's role in it. In fact, there's nothing they wish more in life than to perform their allotted roles adequately. They wish nearly as much that everyone else in their society feels the same way. That's why anyone who is born into or immigrates to these islands is taken in their sleep to a Genie so they too can have these wonderful wishes.

The Holy Dworken Empire

Dworken Empire.jpg

The small continent to the west is almost entirely controlled by a single empire of dworks and their puny horse slaves, who are regularly sacrificed to fuel the Black gem magics that keep the empire running smoothly. The dworken empire was the first to discover the power of gems by several decades, and the discovery only took so long to percolate to other lands due to the difficulties of crossing the relatively small ocean that separates the two continents, and the strict laws against telling foreigners about the discovery that were in place at the time.

The Dworken Empire became the Holy Dworken empire after Empress Grag Warscream formed an alliance with the Astral Order of the angels. The empire put into law many of the less arduous and more superficial moral tenets that the angels of the Astral Order follow, Angelic is taught in schools and is the language all research papers are written in, and the priestesses who regularly project to the astral realm to commune with the angels are respected and have quite a lot of political clout.

The current Empress, Thrud Warscream, is a mere figurehead compared to the High Priestess, who advises cunningly with the assistance of a pair of cold, calculating fractalences.

Ale production is strictly controlled by the imperial authorities, and provided liberally to most of the populace.

The Astral Order

Before the discovery of Black magic by the dworks, the Astral Order encompassed all of the known lands of the astral realm for untold millenia, every Angel straining to follow their absolute moral code as best they can. Salt golems methodically remove the vast hovering oceans, and have been doing so for so long that there isn't much water left. Angels cycle in and out of "retirement homes", where Agels ensure that everyone gets to experience old age for a sizeable fraction of their immortal lives. An elaborate and complex set of rules dictates endless minutiae of their daily lives, from what sort of fabrics they can wear on every third day to the types of music they can play on every eleventh. Despite being beings with no need to do anything to survive, the Angels of the Astral Order spend most of their time doing menial tasks they do not enjoy, such as building vast palaces and temples just so they can be destroyed in solemn ceremonies.

When the first explorers from the Dworken Empire came to the astral realm, it was at first quite difficult to communicate with the Angels, as they spoke a strange language and had a tendency to impale the explorers' avatars for acting against the Angels' moral code. Efforts faltered until Empress Grag Warscream saw the potential an alliance with these otherworldly beings could hold and showered them with funding. Soon enough, Warscream and the Astral Order had formed an alliance, allowing the Empire to project a significant angelic host on demand and crush any lingering rebellious elements on the continent.

Nowadays, the Astral Order only covers roughly half of the known lands of the astral realm, as many angels have joined the ranks of the corrupted.

The Corrupted

Culture did not transfer only one way when the Dworks entered the astral realm. Many angels learned from the Dworks that other moral systems could exist, ones that did not dictate what one should do according to a long and arbitrary set of rules, but rather determined by many individuals agreeing on ethics to follow by social convention. Some of these Angels decided to adopt ethics new to them, abandoning the old ways. Branded as "the Corrupted", these angels were banished from the society of the Angels who kept to the old ways. Much battling occurred, and at this point roughly half of the local parts of the Astral Realm is controlled by the Corrupted and half by the Astral Order.

The Corrupted learned of so many new moral systems at once that they did not see how any particular one must be the one true one. Generally, most Corrupted will forgo judgement of any action so long as the perpetrator can explain what moral code permits it. As such, life in Corrupted territory is a chaos of Angels acting as they wish and then getting into long philosophical discussions.

Cults

Way of the Dragon

Way of the... Dragon.jpg

Founded by monks in the mountains of the north, the church of the way of the dragon has a special spire for dragon landings. When members or enemies offend the abbot, they are offered one chance to redeem their honor: remain calm and collected as a dragon eats them alive. The church accumulates new orange gems by trading live human food for eyes the local dragons collect from their rivals; needless to say, the local dragons are cruel and vicious reptiles.

The members of the Way of the Dragon have discovered a small number of Orange spells, and have named them with poetic language:

Table: Way of the Dragon Spell Names

Common Tier Elite Tier Paragon Tier Legend Tier
Spell Name Spell Name Spell Name Spell Name
Time skip Evade the Ages Fireball Blossom Falling on Still Water Fire burst Spring's First Bloom Wurmfood Embrace Destiny
Flaming body Garb of Roses Fireswallowing Dragon Breathing In Haste Dragonfly Dodges Rain Repeat Infidel's Cycle of Savagery
Slow The Dragon Sleeps Wall of eternity Dragon's Ideal Scale Temporal feast Cicada Awakens Prematurely Fire beam Gaze of the Dragon

Brainhunters

Brainhunters.jpg

Should not every individual be willing to sacrifice himself for the good of his country? Is not a body like a country, with the organs its various servants, warriors, and lords? Is it not only right and just for a king to step down so that a greater leader may take his place? I can see no other conclusion but that I must appoint Sir Multhas, whose brain is far cleverer than mine could ever hope to be, as king of my body. — Excerpt from Sir Thrun's last treatise

Sir Thrun was a visionary ahead of his time. Regarded in the decades immediately following his brain-surgery-related death as a madman, the advent of green gems and the Brain Extractor led to a sudden surge in popularity, helped in no small part by the inventor of the extractor, who wished to avoid her imminent painful death from gangrene.

Brainhunters seek out clever and otherwise exceedingly skilled people on the verge of death and offer their bodies to them, on the condition that they promise to lead that body to greatness and success, and avoid abandoning the body for the next thirty years.

A certain sect of brainhunters, the Supplicants of Dominance, are not satisfied with the selection offered by such peaceable agreements. They instead kidnap intelligent people, brainwash them with the help of a genie, and forcibly implant their brains.

Cult of Pain

Cult of Pain.jpg

A semi-heretical offshoot of the Holy Dworken Empire, the cult of pain believes that somewhere deep within the astral realm dwell the three creator goddesses, the Sublime Triad: Erna the all-seeing who watches the world, Hera the all-powerful who created the world, and Vala the all-loving who the other two look up to for guidance. The cult of pain also believes that life is suffering. To reconcile their belief in an all-loving goddess who guided the creation of the world with their belief that life is suffering, the cult of pain has come to the realization that suffering must be the ultimate good, and the other sensations only exist to make the emotional pain of losing them all the stronger.

One might expect such a cult to be extremely self-destructive, but the cult of pain also believes that death is the end of suffering, and that it is their divine duty to enlighten as many people as possible to the truth.

The idea has been put forth that the most grievous wound this world could suffer would be the death of one or more of its goddesses, and there is much discussion about whether seeking out the goddesses in order to destroy them would be a good idea.

Terrains

Toxic Forest

Toxic Forest.jpg

The verdant greenery of the Toxic Forest is produced by the vivid green color of the toxic fumes emitted by stone columns.

Generating a 200 x 200 meter map:

1d6 hills, curved areas 5d10 by 5d10 meters in size, 2d10 meters tall at the peak.

2d10 stone columns, 6 meters wide, with a 4 meter wide hole leading to a cave filled with toxic waste. The columns are 4d10+10 meters tall, and rising from the hole at the top is a 100 meter diameter, roughly spherical cloud of toxic fumes.

Approximately 4000 trees, twisted and bubbling with flesh.

1d8 points of interest, roll 1d10 for each one and consult this table:

Table: Toxic Forest Points of Interest

d10 Roll Feature
1 A small shrine
2, 3, 4, 5 A pond of toxic waste
6, 7 A river of toxic waste, stretching from one map edge to another, or from a pond to one map edge
8 A small mountain
9 A small mountain of pulsing, throbbing flesh
10 A cave or pit

Fleshlands

Fleshlands.jpg

The fleshlands are a single mass of muscle and organs. Fleshland areas are usually bordered by toxic forests.

Generating a 200 x 200 meter map:

1d10 gigantic eyes, 2d6 meters in diameter. Wounding an eye (it has 4 Toughness) makes it shake violently, and all creatures standing on it must make a DC 8 Agility check or be flung 2d10 meters in a random direction.

1d6 mouths, 2d10 meters wide. The mouths are slightly open, but open and bite for 1d12+3 Physical damage every round at initiative count 0. Slain creatures are eaten completely.

1d6 spike groves, roughly elliptical in shape, 4d10 by 4d10 meters, with a height of each individual spike ranging from 3 to 4 meters. "Spikes" can be fingers, legs, horns, tentacles, tails, or other parts of similar nature.

1d6 points of interest, roll 1d10 for each one and consult this table:

Table: Toxic Forest Points of Interest

d10 Roll Feature
1, 2 A pond of blood
3, 4 A river of blood, stretching from one map edge to another, or from a pond to one map edge
5 A pond of toxic waste
6 A river of toxic waste, stretching from one map edge to another, or from a pond to one map edge
7 A gaping nostril, that makes 20 meters of strong wind towards or away from itself, alternating each round.
8 A wing sticking 1d10+10 meters into the sky
9, 10 A field of thick hair, that encumbers anyone who tries to walk through it

Ice Fields

Ice Fields.jpg

Endless fields of ice float loosely on the rolling waves, as larger icebergs punctuate the surface.

Generating a 200 x 200 meter map:

1d4-1 Icebergs: Blocky ice shapes 3d10 by 3d10 meters in size, and 3d10 meters tall. The icebergs are two-thirds submerged.

1d6 Larger Ice Sheets: Sheets of contiguous ice 3d6 by 3d6 meters in size, 2 meters thick.

1d4-1 Stretches of Water: Regions with no ice covering them, 2d10 by 2d10 meters in size.

Smaller Ice Platforms: The remainder of the area is covered in smaller ice blocks, about 1 by 1 meters, and 0.25 meters thick.

Frost Jungle

Small ponds of extremely hot water dot this jungle, keeping the roots of the trees warm even while snow falls on their leaves.

Generating a 200 x 200 meter map:

Roughly 1000 trees, 4 to 12 meters in height and 0.1 meters thick. As the trees are roughly evenly distributed on the land parts, one can forgo placing out the trees individually and just assume that for any straight line path through the forest, there will be one tree in the way every 40 meters.

2d6 hot springs, 1d6 × 1d6 meters in area and 1d6 meters deep. The water is roughly 100° C and thus deals 1d6-2 Heat damage per round to things immersed in it.

The area also contains 1d10 points of interest. For each, roll 1d6 on the following table:

Table: Frost Jungle Points of Interest

d6 Roll Feature
1 An exceptionally large tree, 3d6 meters in diameter and 1d6 &times 20 meters in height.
2 A particularly large hot spring, 4d6 × 4d6 meters in area and 2d6 meters deep.
3 A toxic hot spring of normal size, with a cloud of bluish Toxic Fumes stretching 10 meters above it.
4 A mound of ice, 3d6 × 3d6 meters in area and 2d6 meters tall, at least 20 meters from any hot springs.
5 A steaming river stretching from one edge of the map to another, 2d6 meters wide and 1 meter deep, with a cloud of steam extending 3 meters above it.
6 A chasm stretching from one edge of the map to another, 3d6 meters wide and 1d10+10 meters deep, with a rickety rope bridge connecting the two sides of the chasm.